Roksan Audio is very well known for their excellence in both CD Players and Turntables with awards year over year and the only manufacturer to have been awarded best in class for 5 years running from What HiFi in multiple classes of CD player. Last year they brought out the all-new K3 series in one of their mid-range price ranges and are even adding to that line with a brand new K3 DAC. This year they are striking back at the high end with new releases like the Radius 7 and now the all new BLAK Series.
The BLAK series will start off just like the K3 with a Integrated Amplifier and a CD Player. For this review we will look at the new Integrated Amplifier BLAK USB.
The new Roksan box is quite gorgeous. Roksan logos everywhere! We double box our products when we ship out audio gear for some extra protection, so you won’t actually see this gorgeous box until you open it up. Inside the amplifier is secured and protected with black foam and a separate box contains your remote, power chord and a USB stick (128mb) with the manual on it.
The first thing I did when I took the Amp out was take it over to our K3 set-up to compare the size and aesthetics. I could tell right when I pulled the amp out it was much larger. In the original photos we were sent I could not tell the size and in fact it almost looked smaller and more compact. Putting them side by side I realized the significance of this new unit. I love the new interface with its super simplistic front panel. It has a sort of ambience to it that just exudes sophistication. One thing you will notice is how much more reflective the BLAK front glass plate is compared to the K3. After I had taken extreme care to avoid being in the reflection of the main display you can see me in the volume knob. While I am comparing the K3 aesthetically I won’t be comparing it acoustically as the BLAK right out of the box is a far superior specimen.
The controls are quite simple on the front panel. The volume knob is silky smooth and extremely elegant with its new digital display. The display surrounding the knob lights with small dots up as you increase volume so you can visualize the level. It’s quite a stunning effect. After heavy use, you may need to clean the knob occasionally of fingerprints, but that is similar to a considerable amount of audio gear out there. We have plenty of Burmester systems and I am constantly cleaning them of fingerprints!
On the panel you can switch the input by clicking back and forth on the arrow buttons and beyond that their is not much else in terms of control on the front panel. The remote control is where you have most flexibility. The remote has direct input buttons for your amp, DAC, bluetooth etc; or you can use arrows on the remote to switch between inputs. You can also shuffle and mute from the remote. To adjust the display you have to hold the OK button on either the front panel or the remote until “Roksan” appears and than use the input buttons to adjust the display brightness.
For the connections you have one line of inputs, which start out with your phono MM input, followed by three analog RCA inputs and an XLR input. Flanked on either side of the unit are your WBT speaker connections. Then there is the USB Type B input, which I am using connected to the iMac on my desk.
On the front is your headphone connector and on the bottom is the switch to turn it on. There is completely seperate dedicated amp for the headphones from the rest of the system and when switched on everything else is turned off in order to isolate the headphone amp. The headphone switch is the white button underneath in the middle of the amp. Not to be confused with the power button underneath on the left side!
The advanced Texas Instruments DAC platform supports PCM sample rates up to 192 kHz and also DSD information for both DSD64 and DSD128. It’s only possible to take advantage of this using a computer connected to the USB port of the Integrated Amp, so thats what we did! We hooked this up at my desk to create one ultimate computer listening experience! I have had a pair of large floor standing speakers just hanging out here by my desk for quite some time, so we took those bad boys and hooked it up to the amp and my computer. For cables we used Vertere’s Pulse R USB with Burmester’s copper speaker cables.
Setting up the amp was quite simple; there was only one hiccup… I always forget about Roksan’s love for the buttons on the bottom. The first time I set-up Roksan it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out just how to turn it on! In this case I forgot about the headphone switch that was on the bottom panel and turned on. So for a good 10 minutes we were quite confused as to why we were not getting any playback. Finally we got everything working and went through our break in period, playing lots of electronica and just general easy going work music. After all this set-up the Roksan BLAK has become part of my new office work desk and given the size of the speakers next to my desk “headphones” that the whole office can enjoy. Better not start browsing random reddit or facebook posts!
Finally! Time to just sit down and listen. Just getting back from lunch I poured myself an espresso and put our server on shuffle and just let the music begin. I like to go through a number of different types of genres and I definitely hit up some of the standard tracks out there used for audio testing. For the first couple hours we played standard audiophile tunes and just relished in both the amplifiers capabilities and the warmth of sound that encompassed the entire office floor.
I went through quite a lot of variety in listening, a sample of some of the stuff I listened to was Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, the album 10,000 Hz legend by Air, a few concertos by Vivaldi, Dire Straits and even a Kanye West album I found re-mastered. I also played a considerable amount of Jazz, a ton of techno and trance (my personal favorite genre) and even some rap/hip hop! I finished it all off with some Free Bird because I love it and on a good system it just makes my soul fly! Some of the tracks that truly made my ears perk up was Air – Lucky and Unhappy, Amsterdam After Dark by George Coleman, The Sound Of Silence (Guitar Del Mar Mix), Colour to the Moon by Allan Taylor and Armin Van Buuren – Imagine(particularly the electric guitar).
We started switching between DAC and Bluetooth from the computer and the superiority of the DAC via the USB connection was definitely the preferred method. Not that we doubted it but it’s always good to hear for yourself. Confirming the superiority of equipment is something you should always do. Setting up bluetooth was easy as pie! Once you connect with your ipad/computer/phone you just hit the OK button on your remote or device and viola all done. We had the computer hooked up to the DAC, Bluetooth and a direct line input. While the DAC is superior to the Bluetooth there are definitely applications where we would be using the bluetooth, but if you have the option between the two hooking up via USB is the way to go. The power, the vibrancy, the detail were just so much better…
With a bit of luck this unit will not be leaving my desk for a very long time, I really like it.
The BLAK integrated amplifiers is absolutely musically enthralling and has more than ample power. The USB addition brings in a high quality internal DAC with a USB port type B. The DAC can process information up to 24bit/192kHz, plus DSD data decoding for an exceptional high-resolution audiophile performance. The amplifier has aptX Bluetooth output so that you can stream via your phone and other digital devices.
3 x RCA line inputs
1 x pair analogue XLR inputs
1 x USB type-B input
MM Phono input
aptX Bluetooth input
MM input – gain, 77db@1kHz, input impedance 47k ohm 150pF
Input Impedance 24k ohm XLR, 40k ohm RCA
Gain @ 1kHz, 8ohm 37dB
THD @ 1W, 8ohm, 5kHz less than 0.02%
THD @ 12W, 8ohm, 5khZ less than 0.035%
Power output @1kHz, 8ohm >150W
Power output @ 1kHz, 4ohm > 230W
Frequency Response @ -3dB, 12W, 8ohm from less than 20Hz to more than 80kHz
Channel Balance @ 1kHz, 8ohm, 12W better than 0.3db
Cross talk @ 1kHz, 8ohm less than -104db
S/N @1kHz, 8ohm, 1W more than 76db
Price: $5,000USD w/USB
We will review this unit as soon as the transformers are ready for the USA market but just a heads up on what this one will look like as well to go with the BLAK Integrated:
The BLAK CD Player comes with 3 digital outputs and it has advanced far beyond that of the K3 CD and K3 CD Di. It also has 2 analogue outputs to go along with the digital capabilities. The all new DAC chipset is built for optimal detail retrieval and the CD mechanism is totally isolated in order to eliminate vibration.
3 x Digital Outpus – optical, coaxial, XLR
2 x Pairs of analogue outputs – RCA, XLR
Peak Output 2.5V
THD @ 1kHz, 0dB less than 0.001%
Linearity @ 1kHz >89dB
Jitter < 125ps
S/N ratio A weighted, >108dB
Stop brand rejection >100dB
That is an excellent question! The BLAK Amplifier is shipping from Roksan in London and we have stock here at the Rutherford Audio warehouses and dealers can begin ordering them immediately. The CD Player will be a few more weeks, but you can order through your dealer now and we can ship it direct to you from our warehouse or send it to your dealer so he can assist you with set-up. If you have any questions regarding the new BLAK series, feel free to give us or your local Roksan dealer a call or send us an email at any time.
# # Review written by Chad Naputi of Rutherford Audio April 2016 – email@example.com 303.872.6285 ext 2